Molybdenum is one of the rarest metals that is widely needed for industrial use, and its rarity makes it a primary target for metal recyclers. Molybdenum is so rare that it can’t even be found as a free metal in the Earth’s crust. It can only be discovered in an oxidized state, bonded to one of several minerals. This makes it expensive to process it into a usable state, and a metal worth preserving, because it’s not easily replaced. Fortunately, there are metal recycling experts that are specialized at recovering scrap metals in an industrial setting. These experts know where to find molybdenum, and they know how to process it to ensure that it is put back into circulation.
The Magic of Molybdenum
Molybdenum is one of the harder elements to say, and one of the hardest ones to spell. That’s because it is derived from an Ancient Greek word for lead (molybdenum looks like lead). But that isn’t its only standout trait. Molybdenum has some interesting physical properties that make it ideal for strenuous industrial applications. While it isn’t particularly hard, and rates a 5.5 on the Mohr hardness scale, it does have the sixth-highest melting point among elements (4,753 degrees Fahrenheit). It also offers comparable tensile strength to other metals, even at extremely small diameters. But what really makes it a useful material is its ability to resist thermal expansion, which is one of the best known to man. It is able to maintain its size and shape, even when subjected to incredibly high temperatures.
Another important property of molybdenum is its ability to form steel carbides, and this is an important part of what makes it so useful in industrial settings. But how, specifically, is molybdenum used? Really, only in a couple major applications, and they include:
1. Alloying – By far the primary application of molybdenum is in metallurgy, where almost 90 percent of the available metal is utilized. It is predominantly bonded to steel, and especially structural and stainless steel. Of the molybdenum that is alloyed, about 35 percent is combined with structural steel. Of the remaining, 25 percent is used in stainless steel, approximately 10 percent is combined with steel tools and 5 percent is incorporated into superalloys.
It is a popular alloy option because it offers excellent thermal resistance and material stability, warding off intense temperatures without losing its integrity. It does not soften at extremely high temperatures, either, and it will retain its strength. In some applications, it also contributes corrosion resistance and weldability. For the most part, this is needed for some varieties of stainless steel.
Its excellent thermal stability makes it a frontline choice for aircraft components, industrial motors, military armaments, filaments and electrical contacts. It will quickly oxidize at temperatures above 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, though, so it is often selected for vacuum environments.
Finally, it is a useful alternative to tungsten in some alloys, as it offers much of the thermal resistance that tungsten does, while offering a stable price. Tungsten is an investment metal now, and that makes it difficult for industry to get a fair deal when purchasing it.
Molybdenum is only alloyed in tiny portions, but even though it only applied in small portions with steel, nearly 50,000 tons of molybdenum are needed every year for this purpose.
2. Machining – Again, 10 percent of the molybdenum that is alloyed is alloyed into high-speed and tool steel. Like in all other alloy applications, only extremely minute amounts of molybdenum are used, but it makes a difference. Steel carbide is much, much more durable than unalloyed steel, so it is an excellent choice for cutting and shaping tools like lathes. Steel carbide can withstand punishing abrasive forces better than most other materials, and it lasts up to 20 times longer than standard steel tools. Its incredible abrasive resistance means it can also be used to make more complex cuts and deeper cuts, so it is relied on for components that require high quality finishes or intricate designs. Eventually, though, even steel carbide tools will wear out, and those worn out tools make for an excellent source of molybdenum.
Molybdenum is often found alloyed in components that are difficult to process, like aircraft engines. It takes a lot of expertise to handle these components, and a lot of manpower to go through hundreds, even thousands of pounds of material to get to the valuable bits. That’s why industrial facilities should rely on metal recycling experts that have experience in handling molybdenum and metals like it. Experienced scrappers will do a better job of extracting as much of the metal as possible, maximizing the impact of recycling spent materials.